The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Hannah Van Ree

Parole hearing a cause for concern to residents


The parole hearing of a man convicted of sexual assault 13 years ago has at least one concerned mother expressing concern.

Cynthia Sutton recently contacted the Sun-Telegraph wishing to get the word out there of her ex-husband’s hearing, set for Wednesday, April 24.

“I feel that my fellow citizens of Sidney, Neb. and the surrounding communities need to be informed of yet another sex offender’s possible early parole,” she wrote.

According to a Notice of Hearing by the Nebraska Board of Parole, Sutton’s ex-husband, Gary Vannatter Sr., was convicted in Morrill County on April 4, 2000 of first-degree sexual assault. He was sentenced for up to 20 to 40 years in prison for the crime and his first granted parole hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. at the Community Corrections Center in Lincoln, Neb.

Vannatter, who was born in 1967, was sentenced at the Morrill County Courthouse in Bridgeport by Judge Brian Silverman in 2000. The crime occurred in 1999 in Bridgeport, according to Sutton.

“He’s up for parole, and given the chance I am 98 percent sure he will end up back here,” she added.

“I just want people to know because unfortunately we have other sex offenders around so we don’t need another one.”

Sutton explained that her family lived in Bridgeport from 1986 to 1999 before she moved to Sidney in 1999 following the event.

“We were married at the time all this happened and my daughter, the victim, and us lived in Bridgeport and we moved here in 1999 and he was sentenced April 4, 2000,” she said.

Sutton alleged that relatives of Vannatter were planning to write letters to his parole board to say that he has served his time and should be released.

The mother said that she hoped members of the community would write in to the same parole board with letters stating that he should stay incarcerated, but seeing as how the hearing is tomorrow, she said she understands that letters will most likely not reach the board members in time.

“October of 2010 he was up for parole and denied,” said the mother.

Sutton said that Vannatter had been up for parole in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and was denied a hearing in those years.

“Unfortunately they granted him the hearing this year,” she said.

Sutton said that her, her daughter, and other family members will testify at the hearing, just as her daughter testified against her biological father at age 11 in 1999.

The mother said that Vannatter has switched incarceration units since his conviction, and as of July of last year was moved to a Community Corrections Release Program.

“It’s a whole different program where he is allowed to go work out in the community in Lincoln. That means a lot more freedom, less guards, and my daughter is freaked out that way knowing,” said Sutton. “It should be like in California were they should be in hot pink with ‘Inmate’ all over them, but he goes out in jeans and a t-shirt every day just like anybody else. Lincoln isn’t very far from here.

“From what the parole board told me,” said Sutton, “he has to lay out a very specific plan of where he is going to go, where he is going to work, where he is going to live - all that stuff before they even consider it.

“My main concern is just letting people know,” said the mother.


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